Thursday, April 24, 2008

Adventures

That are really impossible at the moment for many reasons. One in particular. Reading Ted Rall's interview with a French publication (in English) reminded me of something I've been thinking about. It focusses a lot on Central Asia, and there's a particular place in Central Asia that is of interest. Some people might think I'm crazy for it but I'm interested in finding the school known as the Sarmoun Brotherhood, a secret esoteric monastary that Georges Gurdjieff, reknowned mystic, studied at.

It was rumored to be on the frontier between China, Tibet, Central Asia, South Asia close to the Silk Road. Turns out that there is a place that fits that description and that does in fact have an interesting esoteric tradition. It's the Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan. Thought to be the model for James Hilton's book "Lost Horizon", the Hunza valley is also and quite uniquely Ismailii, the offshoot of Shi'ism that Hassan-I-Sabbah was part of and that is probably the most esoteric branch of Islam, although certain Alevi sects may place up there are well. There's even a place near that's called in the traditional language, which is an isolate not connected to any Indic, Persian, Turkish or Sino-Tibetan language, is called "Sargan".

The valley, however, in in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, which are basically Pakistani Kashmir, heavily disputed with civil war going on against Pakistan, India warring with Pakistan over it, and Kashmiris in India wanting independence as well. The Northern areas were the subject of a scorched earth campaign by India known as the Operation Kargil.

The province as a whole borders Afghanistan and is of course close to the countries of Central Asia.

Ted Rall mentioned in the article travelling in the Northern Areas and having his bus hijacked by Taliban fighters who threatened to execute him. I take that as an indication that the place is not safe to travel to.

But, maybe someday. I'll show up, ask some stupid questions, be met with a stony silence, and drink a lot of tea.

*****I suppose I should Google-fi this by putting in the quotation "Where is the Sarmoun Brotherhood?"******

*on edit: Silly me, I got some of the facts of the Jammu-Kashmir issue wrong. There isn't an insurgency against Pakistan going on. Instead, Pakistan is pro-Kashmiri independence although it denies giving actual aid to the insurgents. "Operation Kargil" is more accurately called the Kargil war and was by all accounts started by Pakistan against India. The Indian army didn't conduct a scorched earth campaign. On that I confused Kargil with "Operation Bluestar", where the Golden Temple of Sikhism was destroyed along with the many people inside defending it against the Indian Army. Operation Bluestar also happened fifteen years before Kargil. Nevertheless, there have been many skirmishes between Pakistan and India regarding Jammu and Kashmir, which lie directly south east of the Northern Areas.

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